First, the conservative champion Fred Thompson dropped out of the Republican nomination race and then, the not-so-conservative conservative champion Mitt Romney suffered a bad setback in Florida. Rudy Giuliani, the non-conservative but acceptable to conservatives liberal is dropping out of the Republican race. Mike Huckabee, who is true blue conservative on some issues but not on others, probably cannot win the nomination or the presidency. Ron Paul is honorable, intelligent, but unelectable and impracticable in these days of global terrorism. It seems increasingly like John McCain will be the nominee.
It appears as if conservatives are not going to have a conservative in the White House for the next four years. The question is whether to throw our support to John McCain now, in return for promises from him, or to wait until we have nothing to give him because he has taken the nomination. There are three very specific things which John McCain could promise us now and which could do much to allay our fears of a McCain presidency.
The first is a one term pledge. This is not unprecedented. Rutherford B. Hayes took a one term pledge and kept it. McCain is older and the presidency is his ambition. He can do most of what he wants, including everything he wants to do in Iraq, in one term.
The second is his selection of a vice president. If McCain takes a one term pledge, then the selection of a good vice presidential candidate would prevent Republicans in four years from going through a nomination process that divides the party. Moreover, although vice presidents in recent years have been the "attack dogs" of the administration, McCain is perfectly capable of being his own attack dog. This would leave the vice president in the position of being a genial "good cop" for four years, and make his election in 2012 much more likely.
Conservatives should secure from McCain a short list of individuals that he would choose for vice president. Here are some thoughts: John Kasich, the Ohio straight-shooter whose style would fit well with McCain, who is honest, and who would carry Ohio; J.C. Watts, the Oklahoma straight-shooter whose race and whose faith would make him a formidable candidate and whose conservatism is clear; Bobby Jindal, the bright conservative child of Indian immigrants who attracts the respect of everyone; Rick Santorum, the former Senator who served with McCain and whose credentials are also impeccable.
All of those four have a touch of maverick, but all are also undeniably conservatives with distinct electoral advantages for the Republican Party in the general election. All four are also relatively young men who could serve two terms in the White House.
The third is a list of judicial nominees that President McCain would nominate to the United States Supreme Court. This could include Janice Rogers Brown, Bill Pryor, Michael Luttig, Priscilla Owen, Emilio Garza, Ted Olson and many others. The list should be long enough to give McCain plenty of choices, but conservative enough and specific enough so that we should know that the next one or two justices appointed to the Supreme Court would be excellent and would tip the balance of the court for a generation.
These promises could be made publicly, but it might be wiser to have them made privately, perhaps in writing, to a respected group of conservative leaders. If those promises were made in a way that was politically enforceable, what would that mean?
It would mean that McCain, with a united conservative front behind him and the support of many moderates, would probably win the general election. Even more than that, if he won as a strong national candidate, it could well mean that Republicans could do very well in the congressional and state legislative races around the country.
It would mean that after four years of McCain, Republicans could rally around a young, likeable conservative without a divisive primary season and that the Supreme Court nominations for the next twelve years would be conservatives, as well as insuring that Leftist policies were not enacted during these dozen years.
It would mean that the war on terrorism would be conducted with a united government for as far as politics can project, and that our nation will have an excellent chance of defeating radical Islam. Is this worth it? It certainly was not the choice of any conservative a few months ago, but it may be the best we can get now.